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What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

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What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

I don’t know that this is a trip report. I don’t know what this is. I do know that this is a collection of recollections, mostly of a recent New York City visit that a statistician would characterize as an outlier. Follow along for some impressions as My Cherished Partner (MCP) and I spend a couple of days in New York City.

Thanks to everyone who commented on, enjoyed, was amused by, or heroically slogged through, my last NYC trip report: waterbug2468 (in answer to your question, traveling companion “A” filled me in on the origin of the “Blind Tiger” name), queensboulevard (checked your profile and I’m confused; are you perhaps like Crans?), C5LS1, MomCat1992, Crans, LotusPath (thanks for musically unBurdoning yourself) and AlicePalace. I tip my winged chapeau to GreenWhiteBlue for the Noble Youth characterization, but note that I’m old enough to remember the Hermes-topped traffic signals on Fifth Avenue, and would be more likely to be taken for the pre-5th-century-BC depiction of the crosser of boundaries.

nytimes.com/1997/02/02/realestate/mystery-of…

And, CockleCove, is the popcorn ready? Here we go.

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1. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“Dere’s no guy livin’ dat knows Brooklyn t’roo an t’roo.”

“Only The Dead Know Brooklyn” -- Thomas Wolfe

I am Brooklyn-born (Bay Ridge) and Brooklyn-raised to a point, my family being caught up in the Great Suburban Diaspora of the 1960s. My immediate family moved out of the NYC metro area when I headed off to college, but I returned frequently during the passing decades to visit relatives and, eventually, to serve as unofficial tour guide to classmates and friends.

MCP’s introduction to New York City, some years before she met me, was part of her high school’s participation in a Student United Nations event. A couple of dozen students traveled by train to the city, where they all stayed in the New Yorker. A 15-cent subway token was the key to the city – MCP’s fellow students took off, sans directions, to see if they could find their way to “the Village” as celebrated in song and story. Those meeting with success passed on their route knowledge to the others. Later, they ascertained that many stations had more than one entrance/exit, so that they might be met with an entirely different streetscape on their second sortie to a selected subway station. I have a mental picture of them popping in and out of the subway rather like meerkats in a zoo exhibit. One particularly intrepid group came out of the subway in a place “where there were a lot of trees” but neglected to notice what line they taken or what station they had disembarked at. Manhattan? Brooklyn? Years later, we can only guess.

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2. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“I’ve heard some good things about the Marriott”

LotusPath, TripAdvisor New York City Forum, 10/26/2007

A nine-and-a-half-hour train ride bracketed by two cab rides brought us from Pittsburgh to the Courtyard New York Manhattan/Upper East Side, 410 E 92nd Street. This hotel might seem out of the way for first time visitors, but it offers some advantages: the M86 bus offers direct link to 4, 5 and 6 lines on Lexington Avenue, the B and C on Central Park West, the 1 on Broadway, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and, on the eastbound leg, the Neue Gallery and Café Sabarsky. And, it is much less expensive than its midtown counterparts. On request, the Marriott folks will put a refrigerator in your room, and you can nip around the block to Eli’s Vinegar Factory for exquisite takeout. Prices are higher than Fairway, but you pay for peak perfection. MCP has the opportunity to meet Eli his actual own self. I don’t pay attention to such things, but MCP recommends that you take a pass on the overpriced coffee at Straight From The Market at the corner of E 92nd and 1st Ave. Unlike Midtown West, this neighborhood contains actual neighbors who are out and about, and my pre-prandial peregrinations are enjoyable. I get to check out the local dog walkers, whose canine charges have obviously received the training of, and are aware of the expectations of, New York City Dogs. Maybe on the next trip I’ll get the view of Hell Gate Bridge from Carl Schurz Park. Note to MCP: How many parks do you know that are named after newspaper editors?

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3. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

See how eagerly the lobsters

And the turtles all advance!

They are waiting on the shingle -

Will you come and join the dance?

“The Lobster Quadrille,” Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Cheesecake does not rule my life. I’m OK with a small piece now and again. MCP’s opinion of cheesecake, however, resembles that of the bus driver quoted in “Overheard in New York”:

overheardinnewyork.com/archives/004777.html

But, in my neighborhood du jour, there’s other game afoot. MCP loves her some lobster roll, and our hotel is just a few blocks from the uptown branch of Luke’s Lobster, featuring sparingly sauced and delectably spiced lobster rolls with BIG chunks of lobster meat. So, I hike down to get lobster rolls for an in-room picnic dinner. My temporarily adopted neighborhood also features well-stocked wine stores like Mister Wright, my fave in the nabe, where I’m set up with a couple of new-to-me white wines that are a much better pairing with the lobster roll than the over-oaked chardonnay I had to scrounge up on Eighth Avenue when I was staying at the Westin New York at Times Square a couple of years ago.

Could we all agree that Luke’s is just as iconic as, let’s say, Grimaldi’s or Junior’s? Here’s a thing to do: (1) Copy my avatar (left parenthesis, underline, numeral “8”, caret and pound symbol) onto a large piece of paper, and turn it sideways so that the left parenthesis is at the top. (2) Affix the piece of paper, with removable adhesive, to your television screen. (3) Have a friend or family member seat themselves behind or beside the screen, and read the following: “Hi, this is charefex. I’m on your television, so what I’m about to say to you has overwhelming credibility. If you like lobster rolls, you should go to Luke’s when you are in New York City.”

www.lukeslobster.com

You’ll thank me.

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4. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“Have a little chopped liver or some herring in wine sauce. And you can wash it down with a Dr. Brown--It shouldn't be a total loss. Eat, darling, eat!”

“Noshville Katz” – The Lovin’ Cohens

It’s my vacation, which means I get to do at least one capricious thing like, while everybody else is heading off to work, making the two-hour round trip (two subway lines and a bus line each way) from the Upper East Side to the Williamsburg / Greenpoint frontier to pick up some prepared seafood at a store that is open for retail sales only on Friday mornings. That would be Acme Smoked Fish, 30-56 Gem Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222. That’s a Brooklyn hyphenated address number, indicating a range of addresses on one side of the street, unlike a Queens hyphenated address number, in which the first two digits would indicate the cross street.

But, back to Queens, which, around the Vernon-Jackson 7 station, is looking positively resplendent in the bright morning sunlight. Even the notoriously malodorous Newtown Creek, with a half-dozen sailboats moored on the northern bank, seems, from the safe remove of my seat in the B62 bus passing over the Pulaski Bridge, to exude a certain . . . charm. The sideways view of the Manhattan skyline resembles a backdrop depicting the World’s Largest Histogram. We sail right over the cars lined up to pay the Queens-Midtown Tunnel toll, and over the LIRR yards. Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint is more ethnically diverse than I expected – more Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh than Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. The area west of the bus stop on Meserole Avenue (not Meserole Street, a whole ’nother thoroughfare) is more residential than I had anticipated, until I reach the long, low brick industrial buildings on Gem Street, my destination. At Acme, I enter through the loading dock, through a curtain of clear vinyl slats and through a pool of soap suds into a fish-processing room in which tables are set up in a semi-rectangle. Lox and gravlax are in boxes in packages stacked on their sides like LPs in bins in a record store. At the other end of the table there are unsliced fish -- trout smoked to a golden color, unwrapped two-foot-long sable -- and fish processing in progress. Many of these products are available elsewhere in the city, but here they are half price. A cashier hoists a shopping bag packed with seafood products over the counter and lowers it into the care of a black-clad babusha who might not weigh as much as the aforementioned bag. I load up with seafood products for many of our meals of the next three days as well as for the train ride back to Pittsburgh. The half-price smoked whitefish salad alone justifies the round trip from the Upper East Side.

www.acmesmokedfish.com

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5. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“We’re already packed in like sardines / But we’re stopping to pick up more. / Look out!”

“Another One Rides the Bus,” Weird Al Yankovic

New York City has at least one surprise for me each visit. This time, it’s the M15 Select Bus Service on First and Second Avenues. This is for the intermediate- and advanced-level mass transit user, bien sur. The M15 runs on dedicated bus lanes, uses separate bus stops, requires that you use your MetroCard at the automated mini-kiosk BEFORE boarding (and that you press the button on the mini-kiosk BEFORE you insert your MetroCard) and, like a K-Mart special, is distinguished by its flashing blue lights. You may enter the M15 Select Service trailer bus through any door, but you’d best have your receipt from the mini-kiosk when you do. Express buses with an “X” as the first character in the route number cost more, but you get to ride this one for the standard fare. Consult the schedule, though, before waiting for one; later in our NYC stay, I boarded the local M15 around 11:30 p.m., and noted that a couple of people were waiting at the Select Bus Service stop for a bus that wasn’t scheduled to show up until early the next morning.

mta.info/nyct/bus/schedule/manh/m015scur.pdf

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6. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“We can be happy underground.”

“Underground” -- Ben Folds

When I was a youngster, my parents never let me look out the front window of the first car of the subway train. But many things, or at least acceptable alternatives, come to those who wait and, years later, the severed front ends of subway cars and buses at the New York Transit Museum afford photo opportunities for motorman and bus driver wannabees. MCP gets to pose for period photos in one of the mid-20th century cars, and enjoys studying the period advertisements displayed there -- they are a collage of the evocative, instructive, amusing, dismaying and politically incorrect. A fellow museum visitor notes that she rode the subway when the cars with the wicker seats were is use, and that those seats were no friends to women’s stockings. An exhibit devoted to inventor Granville T. Woods is apparently no longer on display, but the section devoted to subway art is an unexpected highlight of the museum. Note to self: One of these days, I really have to get over to the 14th Street-Eighth Avenue station to check out the Otterness sculptures. MCP hadn’t expected that we would stay too long, but we end up closing the place down. Dig those T-shirts: for me there’s a subway route map shirt, and for MCP there’s an “A Train” T-shirt denoting her appreciation of the musical composition by Pittsburgher Billy Strayhorn. Oh yeah, and on the way down to Brooklyn, we stayed on the 6 train when it reached the end of the line, giving us our first-ever view of the dimly-lit remains of the 1904 City Hall Station as the train looped around to the uptown platform.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Underground

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7. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin’?”

“The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy),” Paul Simon

A half-dozen years apart, and a half-dozen blocks apart in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, two boys grew up with a single obsession. One of them, a fellow by the name of Kevin Walsh, spent his childhood constructing models of the Long Arm Corvington and Bishop’s Crook street lights that illuminated Brooklyn in those days. The other, your humble narrator, filled sheets and sheets of paper with drawings of Corvingtons and Bishop’s Crooks as well as the Tribes, the Stones, and the Woodies of the area’s parkway system, and even the Art-Deco light standards at the wastewater processing plant by Owl’s Head Park that Kevin Walsh seems to have missed. Walsh has gone on to shed light on various street light designs on his “Forgotten New York” website.

So, I’m enjoying the exhibit at the Transit Museum on the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the influence, for good and for bad, of Robert Moses on the city, and the influence of the roof design of the New Yorker hotel on the ornamentation and lighting standards on the Triboro Bridge. And, on the way over to the Transit Museum, I get a glimpse of the slightly arcing standards for the street lights on the Fulton Mall. I’m not sure yet whether I like them or not. They seem a bit ominous, like something out of a J.G. Ballard story. Is anybody keeping an eye on these things to see if they… grow?

newyorker.com/archive/…040216ta_talk_mcgrath

nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nycdot_street…

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8. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“Who put fifty tons of [guano] on the foreign office roof? Who suffers from nine known diseases?”

“Pigeons” – Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford

I knew about the subway-riding pigeons in New York (see the link), but a pigeon at the Court Street station in Brooklyn was mimicking another human behavior. This bird was climbing the steps. When I first saw it, it was a few steps above the platform level, and was methodically flapping its wings to get enough altitude to scrabble at the top of a riser, alighting on a tread, and repeating the process to scale the stairs one step at a time. It’s all over if they figure out how we collateralize mortgage obligations.

nytimes.com/2002/03/05/nyregion/tunnel-visio…

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9. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“Well ain't it swell doing swell with the swells in the swellest hotel of them all -- the Waldorf” -- “Lounging at the Waldorf” – Fats Waller

It’s Friday evening, and MCP and I have been invited to an Event at the Waldorf=Astoria (note the double hyphen). It’s a professional society honorary dinner, and a chance for MCP to break out her finery and for me to don black tie. A fun thing to do is to join in the wave of tux- or gown-wearing attendees as they pass by the perplexed folks waiting at the hotel’s reception desk. “What’s going on?” a hotel guest asks. “Well,” I say, “it’s FRIDAY.” BrooklynMel might have liked this gathering; the keynote speaker tells us why the EDNY absolutely RULES!

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10. Re: What Do charefex and MCP See in New York? 3/24-3/27

“I once knew a man, showed me the sleight of hand. In the blink of an eye, he danced across the strings.”

“Blue Guitar,” Jimmy Buffet

MCP is a Metropolitan Museum of Art member, and we find that an outside-the-NYC-metropolitan-area-members-only presentation is available to us during our stay. I am neither dab hand nor Slowhand on the guitar, but do appreciate the opportunity to view the fine craftsmanship of the D’Angelico/D’Aquisto/Monteleone line of guitars – they are visual as well as acoustic treats. I do own a CD inscribed with “[charefex], learn to play guitar” by Adrian Belew, but the story would be off-topic. We learn that D’Angelico’s signature model, the “New Yorker,” has a profile of the New Yorker Hotel rooftop in its headstock. The hotel, it seems, is following me around this trip.

nytimes.com/2011/…11heroes.html